MY SAY: Why religious bullying needs to come to an end

“IF you believe in God, you are dumb,” the boy in my seven-year-old daughter’s class sneeringly told her.

She came home in tears, because she felt afraid to say what she felt.

I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but in hindsight I should have approached the teacher.

No one should feel intimidated because of their faith.

But I wonder how often this is happening across schools in Australia?

When you look at the religious intolerance in the adult world, it’s hardly surprising it’s spilling over into our children.

Racial vilification is a crime in Australia, yet so is religious vilification, but this doesn’t seem to be enforced.

It’s ok to make jokes about people’s faith, particularly if they happen to believe in Jesus Christ.

The only faith one really hears people make jokes about is Christianity.

People don’t joke about those who have a Muslim faith, and Buddhists and Hindus and different New Age beliefs seem to have some kind of inherent respect.

Atheism, which is essentially a belief system, is also acceptable.

But this weekend is a public holiday for one reason only in Australia.

And people should respect those who see more to it than the Easter Bunny and a day off work.

The disparity between religious tolerance and sexual tolerance has been highlighted by the Safe Schools Coalition debate.

Those who express concerns about Safe Schools LGBTI anti-bullying program because of its questionable content are branded “conservative” and “Christian”, without considering the validity of the points raised.

I wrote to the Queensland Education Department this week asking about Safe Schools and whether the Federal Government overhaul would be applied.

The first line of the response was this:

“The Queensland Government is committed to ensuring schools are safe learning environments for all students regardless of their gender, race, disability, appearance or sexual identity.”

I assume leaving out religion was an oversight, or perhaps it is because of the divide between church and state and schools are meant to be religion free?

However, like sexuality, spiritually is a fundamental part of a person’s makeup irrespective of their age.

While schools don’t need to be sharing religious viewpoints in the classroom without consent, all sectors of society have a responsibility to ensure children don’t feel uncomfortable because of what they or their parents believe.

This is going to become essential as terrorism becomes about religion with the horrendous attacks from ISIS.

In our fear and anger, we need to be careful we don’t blame beliefs, irrespective of what they are, and marginalise those of faith.

Are we going to go back to the time 2000 years ago where someone who believed something ended up on a cross, even if it at this point it is only a cross of bad words?

Australia is a beautiful, diverse country.

Our difference from others should be our tolerance and respect.

By: Kathy Sundstrom

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